Beautiful Exiles by Meg Waite Clayton

Beautiful Exiles by Meg Waite Clayton

Lake Union Publishing:  August 1, 2018

Review copy courtesy of Lake Union and Little Bird Publicity

Description:  Key West, 1936. Headstrong, accomplished journalist Martha Gellhorn is confident with words but less so with men when she meets disheveled literary titan Ernest Hemingway in a dive bar. Their friendship—forged over writing, talk, and family dinners—flourishes into something undeniable in Madrid while they’re covering the Spanish Civil War.

Martha reveres him. The very married Hemingway is taken with Martha—her beauty, her ambition, and her fearless spirit. And as Hemingway tells her, the most powerful love stories are always set against the fury of war. The risks are so much greater. They’re made for each other.

With their romance unfolding as they travel the globe, Martha establishes herself as one of the world’s foremost war correspondents, and Hemingway begins the novel that will win him the Nobel Prize for Literature. Beautiful Exiles is a stirring story of lovers and rivals, of the breathless attraction to power and fame, and of one woman—ahead of her time—claiming her own identity from the wreckage of love. (publisher)

My take:  Meg Waite Clayton’s novel about the relationship of journalist Martha Gellhorn and Ernest Hemingway is obviously well-researched. In her author’s note she describes the books, articles, letters etc. used to flesh out events and characters.

The book begins in 1936 when Gellhorn meets Hemingway. Over the course of their relationship they travel a good part of the world, witnessing and reporting on remarkable events. The two carry more emotional baggage than most couples and continue to add to it over the years. I guess my sympathies are with Gellhorn but she was not totally without responsibility in the fate of their marriage. I really don’t care for Hemingway – at least the way he’s always been portrayed. He clearly had his demons and they were usually on the front burner. In the end, they lived amazing lives and made me wonder who our modern-day Gellhorn and Hemingway are.

I recommend Beautiful Exiles to fans of the genre and Meg Waite Clayton. The reason I enjoy historical fiction is I usually learn new things about people or events – that was the case in this book.


About the author:

Meg Waite Clayton is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of five prior novels, including the Langum-Prize honored The Race for Paris and PEN/Bellwether Prize finalist The Language of Light. Entertainment Weekly named her novel The Wednesday Sisters one of the “25 Essential Best Friend Novels” of all time. Clayton has written for the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, Writer’s Digest, Runner’s World, and public radio. A graduate of the University of Michigan and its law school, she has lived around the country and now resides in Palo Alto.


 

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Heaven Adjacent by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Review copy courtesy of Lake Union and Little Bird Publicity

Lake Union Publishing | June 19, 2018
Paperback: $14.95 | ISBN: 978-1503900394
eBook: $4.99 | ASIN: B076KYS66K

Description: Roseanna Chaldecott wants just one thing: peace and quiet. After the sudden loss of her lifelong best friend and law partner, Roseanna abandons her cushy yet unfulfilling life as a New York City lawyer and drives into the countryside without a firm destination in mind. As the car is just about out of gas, she stumbles upon the place she didn’t even know she was looking for: a tiny
house on a beautiful patch of green, tucked away in the hills, with a “For Sale” sign out front. Not a few hours later, Roseanna is the proud owner of this little slice of paradise and committed to a new
life away from the city.
But in HEAVEN ADJACENT (Lake Union Publishing; on sale June 19th, 2018), there’s a catch: Roseanna isn’t the only person enamored by her peaceful hideaway. On the first night in her new
abode she meets Patty and her five-year-old daughter Willa, who’ve been living on the property and can’t afford their own place. Soon others start traveling through, and as Roseanna explains why she exchanged her comfortable lifestyle for the simplicity of a shack in the woods, a few passersby become additional squatters interrupting her silence and solitude. Though she is adamant their days on the property are numbered, she reluctantly lets them stay.
Back in Manhattan, no one knows Roseanna’s whereabouts for months, not even her remaining ex-law partner, Jerry, or her estranged son, Lance. But after the New York Times runs an article about
Roseanna and the peculiar array of metal sculptures she’s created, Lance arrives to convince her to return home—and Jerry threatens her with a hefty lawsuit for abandoning the firm. As she comes to grips with the possibility of losing everything, Roseanna begins to ask herself what—and who—matters the most to her, and whether the isolation she yearned for is truly the cornerstone of her next chapter in life.
The author of more than 30 books, including the critically-acclaimed novel Pay It Forward, Catherine Ryan Hyde presents readers with a middle-aged woman who still has a lot to learn about who she really is, and a cast of characters who chip away at the hard exterior she’s built up over the hectic life that’s passed her by. As Roseanna beings to accept a new reality free of material wealth, she discovers that she is rich in something that can’t be replaced: family. HEAVEN ADJACENT is a novel about realizing life is too short to put off happiness, and that shows the people we celebrate each day with should make us the most joyful of all. (publisher)

My take:  Roseanna’s approach to work was do it for as long as it took to ensure she could retire at some point and enjoy a comfortable life. When her best friend who held the same mindset suddenly died Roseanna made a change that bewildered her coworkers, family and even herself.

This is a story about resetting one’s priorities. Filled with quirky characters who were part of Roseanna’s new life this novel made me chuckle at times and it made me think about the possibilities that are always around us – but are we brave enough to consider making changes. I really enjoyed it. It’s the third of Catherine Ryan Hyde’s novels I’ve read and, just like the previous ones, it left me with a warm feeling and very happy to have read it. Recommended.


About the author:

Catherine Ryan Hyde is the author of 33 published books. Her bestselling 1999 novel, Pay It
Forward, was adapted into a major Warner Bros. motion picture, made the American Library
Association’s Best Books for Young Adults list, and has been translated into more than two dozen
languages in 30 countries. More than 50 of her short stories have been published in journals, and her short fiction received honorable mention in the Raymond Carver Short Story Contest, a second-place win for the Tobias Wolff Award, and nominations for Best American Short Stories, the O. Henry Award, and the Pushcart Prize. Three have also been cited in Best American Short Stories.
Hyde is the founder and former president of the Pay It Forward Foundation.


 

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen

  • Title:  The Tuscan Child
  • Author:  Rhys Bowen
  • Pages:  329
  • Genre:  Historical Fiction
  • Published:  February 2018 – Lake Union Publishing
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley; Little Bird Publicity

Description:  From New York Times bestselling author Rhys Bowen comes a haunting novel about a woman who braves her father’s hidden past to discover his secrets…

In 1944, British bomber pilot Hugo Langley parachuted from his stricken plane into the verdant fields of German-occupied Tuscany. Badly wounded, he found refuge in a ruined monastery and in the arms of Sofia Bartoli. But the love that kindled between them was shaken by an irreversible betrayal.

Nearly thirty years later, Hugo’s estranged daughter, Joanna, has returned home to the English countryside to arrange her father’s funeral. Among his personal effects is an unopened letter addressed to Sofia. In it is a startling revelation.

Still dealing with the emotional wounds of her own personal trauma, Joanna embarks on a healing journey to Tuscany to understand her father’s history—and maybe come to understand herself as well. Joanna soon discovers that some would prefer the past be left undisturbed, but she has come too far to let go of her father’s secrets now… (publisher)

My take:  The Tuscan Child is the story of two families who never would have met if not for WWII. Lord Hugo Langley’s plane was shot down over a tiny town in Tuscany. He was eventually discovered by a young woman from the town, Sophia Bartoli.

The story unfolds in a dual-timeline told from the perspectives of Lord Hugo and his daughter Joanna. I thought that worked well in the development of the plot. I liked the story well enough but I didn’t feel connected to the characters until the last few chapters. That could all be on me though so don’t let that dissuade you from reading the book.

The descriptions of Tuscany and the food especially are lovely. The mystery involving Lord Hugo and Sophia was interesting and all seemed to be solved at the end. I think readers who like the era of WWII in Italy and a story of survival against all odds will find The Tuscan Child an interesting novel.


About the author:

Rhys Bowen is the New York Times bestselling author of over thirty mystery novels. Her work includes In Farleigh Field, a standalone novel of World War II; the Molly Murphy mysteries, set in 1900s New York City; the Royal Spyness novels, featuring a minor royal in 1930s England; and the Constable Evans mysteries about a police constable in contemporary Wales. Rhys’s works have won multiple Agatha, Anthony, and MacAvity awards. Her books have been translated into many languages, and she has fans from around the world, including the 12,000 who visit her Facebook page daily. She is a transplanted Brit who now divides her time between California and Arizona. Connect with her at rhysbowen.com.

Photo credit: John Quin-Harkin


Praise for Rhys Bowen

In Farleigh Field

“This well-crafted, thoroughly entertaining thriller from Agatha Award-winner Bowen follows the lives of three childhood friends…. Soon it’s a game of spy versus spy, and with every twist and turn, the reader is unsure whom to trust.”
—Publishers Weekly

“Instantly absorbing, suspenseful, romantic and stylish.”

—Lee Child, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author

“Rhys Bowen is one of the very best fiction writers of the day. With a deep understanding of the wounded human heart and an uncanny ability to capture the quiet emotions and the grand scale of war, she rises above her contemporaries. This is magnificently written and a must read.”

—Louise Penny, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author

The Royal Spyness Mysteries

“Wonderful characters…A delight.” —Charlaine Harris, New York Times bestselling author

“This is a pitch-perfect book, which will charm you in one sentence, chill you in the next.” —Laura Lippman, winner of the Edgar, Shamus, Anthony and Agatha Awards

“Georgie’s high spirits and the author’s frothy prose are utterly captivating.” —The Denver Post

“The perfect fix between seasons for Downton Abbey addicts.”
—Deborah Crombie, New York Times bestselling author of The Sound of Broken Glass

“A smashing romp.” —Booklist

The Molly Murphy Mysteries

“Perceptive and poignant writing… make us look forward to Molly’s return.” —Chicago Tribune

“A charming combination of history, mystery and romance.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Well written and fast paced, with a twist that will leave readers truly surprised. This novel is not to be missed.”
―RT Book Reviews


Other Titles by Rhys Bowen

In Farleigh Field

Molly Murphy Mysteries

  • Murphy’s Law
  • Death of Riley
    For the Love of Mike
    In Like Flynn
    Oh Danny Boy
    In Dublin’s Fair City
  • Tell Me, Pretty Maiden
  • In a Gilded Cage
    The Last Illusion
  • Bless the Bride
    Hush Now, Don’t You Cry
  • The Family Way
    City of Darkness and Light
  • The Edge of Dreams
  • Away in a Manger
  • Time of Fog and Fire

Royal Spyness Mysteries

  • Her Royal Spyness
  • A Royal Pain
  • Royal Flush
  • Royal Blood
  • Naughty in Nice
  • The Twelve Clues of Christmas
  • Heirs and Graces
  • Queen of Hearts
  • Malice at the Palace
  • Crowned and Dangerous

Constable Evans Mysteries

  • Evans Above
  • Evan Help Us
  • Evanly Choirs
  • Evan and Elle
  • Evan Can Wait
  • Evans to Betsy
  • Evan Only Knows
  • Evan’s Gate
  • Evan Blessed
  • Evanly Bodies

 

The Wake Up by Catherine Ryan Hyde

  • Title:  The Wake Up
  • Author:  Catherine Ryan Hyde
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Pages:  322
  • Published:  December 2017 – Lake Union Publishing
  • Source:  Publisher

Description:  Something has been asleep in forty-year-old cattle rancher Aiden Delacorte for a long time. It all comes back in a rush during a hunting trip, when he’s suddenly attuned to the animals around him, feeling their pain and fear as if it were his own. But the newfound sensitivity of Aiden’s “wake up” has its price. He can no longer sleepwalk through life, holding everyone at arm’s length. As he struggles to cope with a trait he’s buried since childhood, Aiden falls in love with Gwen, a single mother whose young son bears a burden of his own.

Sullen and broken from his experiences with an abusive father, Milo has turned to acting out in violent and rebellious ways. Aiden can feel the boy’s pain, as well as that of his victims. Now he and Milo must sift through their pasts to find empathy with the innocent as well as the guilty, to come to terms with their deepest fears, and to finally discover the compassionate heart of a family. (publisher)

My take:   The Wake Up is a lovely story about family – mostly about a boy and a man both damaged by circumstances out of their control. The setting is a small California cattle ranch where horses are also raised. This novel is full of emotions and people learning how to give others and themselves room to grow. It’s about forgiveness – of oneself and others. The theme of empathy runs through it all. As I turned the last page I felt hopeful and very glad to have started the year with such a good novel.


 

When We Were Worthy by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen

  • Title:  When We Were Worthy
  • Author:  Marybeth Mayhew Whalen
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Pages:  264
  • Published:  September 2017 – Lake Union Publishing
  • Source:  Publisher

Description:  A win brought them together, but loss may tear them apart.

When the sound of sirens cuts through a cool fall night, the small town of Worthy, Georgia, hurtles from triumph to tragedy. Just hours before, they’d watched the Wildcats score a winning touchdown. Now, they’re faced with the deaths of three cheerleaders—their promising lives cut short in a fatal crash. And the boy in the other car—the only one to survive—is believed to be at fault. As rumors begin to fly and accusations spin, allegiances form and long-kept secrets emerge.

At the center of the whirlwind are four women, each grappling with loss, regret, shame, and lies: Marglyn, a grieving mother; Darcy, whose son had been behind the wheel; Ava, a substitute teacher with a scandalous secret; and Leah, a cheerleader who should have been in the car with her friends, but wasn’t. If the truth comes out, will it bring redemption—or will it be their downfall? (publisher)

My take:  It’s small town America on an autumn Friday night and the people of Worthy, Georgia are set to cheer on their high school football team. No one expects the tragic event that followed the game – an event that will affect more than those directly involved. When We Were Worthy is the story of the people left behind to grapple with what happened. And boy do they have a lot to deal with. Parents, students, and teachers all have questions that might never be answered – unless they are willing to face the truth. As a parent and as someone who went to a small town high school where football was the Friday night entertainment there was a lot to relate to in this novel. I found the plot riveting and loved how Marybeth Mayhew Whalen developed her characters via the short chapters. I especially loved the Emily Dickinson references that were interspersed throughout the novel. Recommended to fans of contemporary fiction.


Praise for When We Were Worthy:

When We Were Worthy is a startlingly clear look at life in a small town where the carefully crafted characters are neither heroes nor villains—they are simply real people wedged into an unimaginable situation. Heart-wrenching and vivid, this is a beautifully written novel about letting go and holding on, of family, of love, and, ultimately, of forgiveness.” —Karen White, New York Times bestselling author

When We Were Worthy is a poignant, haunting story of truths and secrets—the power of tragedy to unravel an entire community, and then stitch it back together—I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.” —Amber Smith, New York Times bestselling author of The Way I Used to Be

“Not everyone who lives in Worthy, Georgia lives up to the name. In When We Were Worthy, Marybeth Mayhew Whalen explores the spectrum of guilt and innocence in one small town after the tenuous connections between neighbors and friends are tested by a horrific accident. Told in alternating voices, this compulsively captivating novel weaves a tapestry of wrenching grief, love, anger, danger, and, eventually, hope.” —Ella Joy Olsen, author of Root, Petal, Thorn and Where the Sweet Bird Sings

“Fans of Lianne Moriarty and Jodi Picoult—this is an author for your favorites shelf. Marybeth Mayhew Whalen’s taut, smart novel is a natural-born page-turner that doesn’t sacrifice depth of feeling or character. Whalen knows this town, these people, and she lays them open for us with razor-sharp insight, wit, and empathy. Don’t miss this one.” —Joshilyn Jackson, New York Times bestselling author of Gods in Alabama and The Almost Sisters

“What do you do when your whole life is turned around, crushed, and destroyed? Do you rise above it? Do you seek revenge? Do you run away? Do you blame yourself? When We Were Worthy is a brilliant, gripping novel that challenges the fabric of who we think we are, a story that speaks to both the fragility and strength of the human spirit in the wake of tragedy. I highly, highly recommend this novel!” —Joy Callaway, author of The Fifth Avenue Artists Society and Secret Sisters


 

Working Fire by Emily Bleeker

  • Title:  Working Fire
  • Author:  Emily Bleeker
  • Genre:  Thriller
  • Pages:  320
  • Published:  August 2017 – Lake Union Publishing
  • Source:  Publisher

Description:  Ellie Brown thought she’d finally escaped her stifling hometown of Broadlands, Illinois; med school was supposed to be her ticket out. But when her father has a stroke, she must return home to share his care with her older sister, Amelia, who’s busy with her own family. Working as a paramedic, Ellie’s days are monotonous, driving an ambulance through streets she’d hoped never to see again.

Until a 911 dispatch changes everything. The address: her sister’s house. Rushing to the scene, Ellie discovers that Amelia and her husband, Steve, have been shot in a home invasion. After Amelia is rushed to the hospital, Ellie tries to make sense of the tragedy. But what really happened inside her sister’s house becomes less and less clear. As Amelia hangs on in critical condition, Ellie uncovers dark revelations about her family’s past that challenge her beliefs about those closest to her…and force her to question where her devotions truly lie. (publisher)

My take:  Working Fire is the story of Ellie and Amelia, two sisters who live in the same small town where they grew up and share taking care of their father. Amelia is married and the mother of two young daughters. Ellie is single and works as a paramedic, having left medical school to help care for her former fire chief dad when he had a stroke. The sisters are very close and would do anything for each other. Ellie worships Amelia and her husband and their daughters. Amelia is a harried mom trying to keep everything going in her family. There’s a stress that’s growing in her marriage making her uncomfortable but not enough to share those thoughts with anyone, including her sister. How will she manage when she discovers what exactly is at the root of the stress. Working Fire is told from the two sisters’ perspectives – one from a current perspective and the other is a few weeks previous. That helped to reveal the story and how events played out in a way that kept me turning the pages. I enjoyed that aspect and yet felt rather ambivalent about the last few pages. I’m wondering if there could be a sequel planned. Or maybe it’s just how real life is for the rest of us – not neatly wrapped up. I look forward to reading more from Emily Bleeker.


About the author:

Emily Bleeker is a former educator who learned to love writing while teaching a writer’s workshop. After surviving a battle with a rare form of cancer, she finally found the courage to share her stories, starting with her debut novel, Wreckage, followed by the Wall Street Journal bestseller When I’m Gone. Emily currently lives with her family in suburban Chicago. Connect with her or request a Skype visit with your book club at http://www.emilybleeker.com.